Dawn of VR gaming: failures and successes

The technology of Virtual Reality is relatively new, it makes first steps in the gaming culture. However clumsy those steps were just a couple of years ago, now VR products look quite impressive, offering an amazing and quite various experience.

We at Paracosm Project feel Virtual Reality as an inseparable part of future gaming. Games with VR, AR, and Cross-Reality features have a priority on the Paracosm platform. Also, we develop our own VR room, named CrossParacosmic VR Hub.

In this article, we make a short review of the current achievements of VR in gaming.

Earliest VR – “dark prehistoric ages”

In the modern world of high-end technologies, it’s so easy to lose the feeling of progression in the devices evolution. It may seem like CRT monitors and huge room-size computers have no connections to the newest smartphones and laptops – “oh, those ancient devices from the previous century”. It may seem like VR headsets appeared in 2016 with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. This is not really true, so.

The recent achievements of the VR technology are a continuation of progressive ideas from the 1990s. Those headsets were… rather weird, and their failures were natural. Not so many players were ready to refuse astonishing innovations of traditional video games in favor of poorly implemented VR dreams – “we let you work enough on the hardware part, and then we’ll return to these ideas”.

So, let’s remember a few the earliest VR headsets (you might never hear of).

  • Sega VR (1993) – with the success in the third generation of game consoles, Sega began investing in super cool ideas. The company prepared a VR headset and four games for it. An early version of the system was shown once to the public at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show, and then the project was closed – reportedly due to motion sickness and headaches, experienced by users. It was supposed to connect Sega VR to arcade machines and the Sega Megadrive (Genesis) consoles.
  • Forte VFX1 (1995) – this headset was developed by Forte Technologies. It was released with the starting price of $695 to be connected to computers. Forte VFX1 contained two LCD displays (0.7″; 263×230; 256 colors). It had sensors for head movements tracking
  • Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995) – this was one of the weirdest devices, produced by Nintendo. The Virtual Boy had a red monochrome display, was rather uncomfortable in use, and gave just a few games. These factors and a high price at initial stages made Virtual Boy doomed to be forgotten.
  • Glasstron (1996) – Sony positioned this headset as a head-mounted display. There were a few models of this device, released in the mid-1990s, with different specifications. The latest one had LCD displays with 800×600 resolution. Glasstron was compatible with PC to play the game MechWarrior 2. Players could observe the game events from cockpits of mechs.

All of these VR headsets were commercially unsuccessful. In this period, the developers had no appropriate technologies to make their dreams of Virtual Reality come true.

After the technical breakthrough

The dawn of Virtual Reality begins after quite a gap after those starting attempts to make a VR revolution. The progress in this area has become possible mostly because of the mighty technological boost. Now, manufacturers have much better screens to provide gamers with exceptional VR images. Now, we have powerful computers to manage complicated calculations of VR worlds rendering.

This new era of the VR technology started in 2016, when two the most prominent headsets were released: Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Here is short info about them:

  1. Oculus Rift – the developing of this VR headset started thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, but even before the release, the company was bought by Facebook. It has two 1080×1200 displays (one per eye) with the 90 Hz refresh rate. Recently, a new version was announced, named Oculus Rift S. it has better resolution (1280×1440 per eye) but with 80 Hz of the refresh rate. Other headsets from this company are Oculus Go and Oculus Quest, which don’t require using a PC.
  2. HTC Vive – it’s a product of HTC and Valve. The displays here have similar parameters to the original Oculus Rift (resolution 1080×1200 and 90 Hz refresh rate). Improved versions are named Vive Pro with resolution 1440×1600 per eye, Vive Pro Eye with eyes movement sensors, Vive Focus with no need to use a PC, and Vive Cosmos with a flip-up screen.

The primary headsets Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have both positive and negative sides. Their pluses are great game libraries and high quality of the VR experience. The minuses are expensive supportive hardware (gaming computers with big power) and quite a lot of various devices to organize a personal VR space. Here is an alternative:

  • PlayStation VR – it’s cheaper, needs only PS4 to run properly, and has an impressive library. Still, the experience quality is comparatively poorer due to hardware limitations. PSVR has OLED displays with resolution 960×1080 per eye and refresh rate 90-120 Hz.

Another alternative is the type of VR headsets that use additional devices to play content.

  • Samsung Gear VR – it works only with the Samsung Galaxy devices attached. The headset comes with special controllers. The display characteristics depend on the smartphone in use. Power limitations don’t allow implementing really big VR games. Still, Gear VR gives a quite cheap way to feel the Virtual Reality experience.

Progress in developing VR games

Virtual Reality games are unique from the developers and from the gamers point of view. This uniqueness makes up two significant challenges that become less intensive with the time flow:

  • game creators should gain that specific understanding of the VR game design. Thinking in traditional terms becomes almost unsuitable. A new paradigm is needed.
  • gamers should get a real experience of playing VR games, it can’t be felt through video trailers. Only then people can understand why to buy VR hardware and games

It seems like the game industry has passed through the period of early instability in the VR area. Starting games were non-addictive and even made players sick (physically). Slowly, the developers got proper ideas and enough skills to implement them in games. And the number of players with headsets or just with personal experience of playing such games has become much bigger. Both of these processes are continuing.

So, the development of Paracosm platform starts at a nice moment for such technologies. Along with strong support for VR, AR, and Cross-Reality games, our products bring to the industry progressive innovations of the Tangle-based service of Caer Sidi – for the highest level of security and a legal scheme of exchanging virtual assets between different games on the platform.

In the future, we may see many astonishing successes of the VR technology – and Paracosm Project is going to be part of them.

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